Reopening of Atlantic bubble delayed until May 3
Date pushed back given rising COVID-19 cases in parts of the region
Travellers looking to move freely around the Atlantic region will have to wait until at least early May, rather than the planned April 19 reopening date.
The decision was made Tuesday in a conference call involving the four Atlantic premiers.
Given the recent surge in cases of COVID-19 in parts of Atlantic Canada and the "emergence of more transmissible forms of the virus," the premiers agreed to delay the reopening of the Atlantic bubble by at least two weeks, to May 3, according to a news release.
The decision is based on advice from the region's chief medical officers of health.
The premiers will next meet during the last week of April to review the status of coronavirus outbreaks, and determine if a further delay to May 10 is needed.
New Brunswick restrictions back in place
Travellers from New Brunswick will also have to self-isolate for 14 days when they enter Nova Scotia.
The change will take effect at 8 a.m. on Thursday, Nova Scotia Premier Iain Rankin announced during a COVID-19 briefing on Tuesday.
Rankin said the renewed requirement for self-isolation was prompted by the increase in case numbers in New Brunswick, including a variant cluster in Edmundston, variant cases in Saint John and cases that are under investigation in the Moncton area. The cases near Moncton are not necessarily connected to the Edmundston outbreak, Rankin said.
The change also means Nova Scotians who have been in New Brunswick and are crossing the border back home must self-isolate for 14 days.
"This is tough, I know, but it's necessary given what we are seeing across the border and in several other provinces where the cases are increasing rapidly because of the presence of variants," Rankin said. "This is what we want to avoid here — an outbreak resulting from the more contagious spread."
Earlier in the day on Tuesday, Rankin said it was "looking unlikely" that the Atlantic bubble will be re-formed on April 19, as expected.
The Atlantic provinces had discussed reopening the bubble on that date, which would have allowed residents of all four provinces to travel across the provinces' borders without the self-isolation requirement.
"We have been watching the cases closely and listening to public health experts and following the science. We've always said that our approach is flexible and nimble and when we see signs changing, we must act. That's what we are doing today."
Asked whether a smaller bubble encompassing Newfoundland and Labrador, Nova Scotia and PEI could be possible, Rankin said he will raise that possibility when the premiers have their meeting.
Graduation and proms can take place — with a catch
Rankin also announced that classes in secondary schools will end one week early this year in order to accommodate modified graduation ceremonies.
Students, staff and families will be allowed to gather in small groups at schools to mark graduation, and further details about those gatherings will be announced later.
Since the graduation ceremonies will span several days for many schools, class will have to end early.
Schools will not be organizing proms this year, but Rankin said parent groups are permitted to do so as long as the events adhere to gathering limits and public health guidelines.
New cases, testing, vaccination numbers
Nova Scotia also announced six new cases of COVID-19 on Tuesday. Two cases are in the central zone, three are in the western zone, and one is in the eastern zone. The cases in the central and western zone are related to travel outside Canada, and the case in the eastern zone is related to travel outside Atlantic Canada. All are self-isolating, according to provincial officials.
The province has 45 known active cases.
Laboratories conducted 2,110 COVID-19 tests on Monday.
As of Monday, 157,590 doses of vaccine have been administered. Of those, 31,294 were second doses.
Atlantic Canada case numbers
New Brunswick reported four new COVID-19 cases on Tuesday for a total of 132 known active cases. Eighteen people are in hospital with COVID-19, including 13 in the intensive care unit.
Newfoundland and Labrador reported one new case of COVID-19 on Tuesday. There are 11 known active cases.
Prince Edward Island reported three new cases on Monday, for a total of seven active cases.